Jul 25, 2018

Niigata is known for its Koi? Who’d have thunk?

Niigata is known for its Koi? Who’d have thunk? photo

So I was chatting with a friend from Akita last night, and she asked how my kids were enjoying festival season. I explained how they loved it, but then I talked about the festival games where kids can catch fish with paper nets. I told her, “My daughter loved the koi sukui game, but then I had a few fish that I wasn’t expecting to have to take care of.” Her response was, “Wait, don’t you mean kingyō sukui?”

Then it struck me that when I was a kid, it was always goldfish that we would catch, not koi fish. 

She then added, “Oh wait, that’s right—Niigata is known for its koi.”

Once again, the light bulb came on in my brain. I’ve driven past this huge Nishikigoi (colored koi) farms a thousand times:

Niigata is known for its Koi? Who’d have thunk? photo

It turns out that most towns around here have at least one koi breeder, and that the muddy paddies that are used to grow Niigata’s prized rice are also the perfect nurseries for Japan’s treasured koi fish. The tiny koi fish are harvested from the rice paddies and then taken to the farms to be grown under strict care and controlled conditions.

While most of these businesses don’t appreciate looky-lous dropping in to check out the fish with no intention of buying them, some keep large indoor and outdoor ponds open for public viewing. Ojiya’s Nishikigoi Village is a great example, and it’s just about a 40 minute jaunt from where I live here in Minamiuonuma.

Is it a lucrative business? Well, would you believe that most koi sell for at least a couple of hundred dollars per fish? However, those are just your run of the mill koi. For koi with especially unique patterns or coloring, they can sell for anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a tens of thousands of dollars!  Can you imagine paying $40,000 for a fish??? There goes the down payment on the house.

So I have a new plan for next year: at my daughter’s school festival, I will be catching ALL the koi from the festival game and raising them. It seems like a lucrative business opportunity!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).